B.C. teachers to begin full-scale strike Tuesday
Letter to BCTF members also designates Monday a study session day, removing teachers from classroom
The B.C. Teachers' Federation has told its members it will serve notice of a full-scale strike beginning next Tuesday, one day after 86 per cent voted in favour of escalating their job action.
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In a letter to its members, the union confirmed it will serve notice of strike action likely starting on June 17 and also designated Monday a study session day throughout the province.
This would mean teachers would spend Monday meeting with union representatives all day — making this Friday the last day of the school year.
For schools where ongoing rotating strike action is taking place this Friday, the last day of school would be even earlier than elsewhere — landing this Thursday.
"We believe that the combined actions of bargaining hard and the solidarity of standing together are the key ingredients needed to get a deal that works for teachers and for our students before June 30 and hopefully sooner," said the letter.
"Please know that both parties are currently involved in discussions," the letter continued. "Our intention is to bargain non-stop throughout the weekend.
"We believe that a small, but important window to negotiate a fair deal exists and we want to take every opportunity to get that deal."
However, the letter says, the situation is fluid and members should take personal items they will need during the summer home with them this week.
Teachers vote to strike
Some 28,809 teachers voted in favour of a full-scale walkout, of a total of 33,387 who cast ballots in a vote held over Monday and Tuesday this week.
Speaking Tuesday night, BCTF president Jim Iker had stressed that while teachers were prepared to fully withdraw services, that decision had not yet been made.
"We want a deal definitely by the end of June and we want a deal earlier than that," said Iker on Tuesday.
"If we get that deal, there will be no more job action, there will be no more lockouts and we can go into the summer knowing we've got some certainty for September for our students and for our teachers,"
The union is required to give three days' notice before members walk off the job, making the earliest possible date for school closures across B.C. Tuesday, June 17.
Speaking on Tuesday, Iker had said the full-scale strike could still be averted if a deal with the government could be negotiated.
"B.C. teachers have shown incredible strength and commitment during the rotating strikes and the government’s chaotic lockout," said Iker.
"More than ever, parents understand that this fight is about quality education for students and fairness for teachers."
'Let's stay at the table'
Speaking on Tuesday, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender said he wasn't surprised by the vote results.
"We have had and felt the pressure to get a settlement since last June, I feel no more pressure tonight after this vote than I did yesterday," Fassbender told the CBC.
The minister also issued a statement reacting to news of the vote.
"While the BCTF leadership received the mandate they sought, no one should interpret this as any kind of enthusiasm on the part of teachers to shut down schools," said the statement.
"I know teachers would prefer to be in their classrooms and I know that students and parents would rather finish this school year on a positive note. It is now up to the BCTF leadership to decide if they are going to move to a full walkout."
Fassbender said the union needs to rethink its expectations and be more willing to engage in meaningful bargaining.
"My message to the BCTF is: let's stay at the table and get to an agreement by June 30, so we can head into the summer with the assurance that our education system is on a path to long-term stability and focused on student outcomes."
Teachers have been without a contract since June 2013, and the vote is the latest development in the dispute that has seen the union and government divided over issues of wages and classroom conditions.
The government has saved $12 million each week in salaries during the teachers' current but limited job action, plus nearly $5 million more by chopping wages.
In the event of a full strike affecting the end of the school year, the B.C. government says every effort will be made to ensure report cards and exams aren't affected.
Potential strike impacts
What the full strike would mean for students in kindergarten up to Grade 9:
- Schools would be closed.
- Parents should make child care arrangements, where required.
- Final report cards will be sent to parents, but written comments may be shorter than usual.
What the full strike would mean for students in Grades 10, 11 and 12:
- Secondary schools would likely only be open for the purpose of administering exams.
- Picket lines could be present outside schools.
- Students in rural areas may not have normal school bus service.
- Provincial exams will be marked and final marks will be sent out in as timely a manner as possible.
The Ministry of Education says the BCPSEA has asked the Labour Relations Board to deem the work required for the completion of report cards as an essential service.
Schedule for B.C.'s provincial exams
- Apprenticeship and Workplace Mathematics 10 Foundations of Mathematics and Pre-Calculus 10 (Schools may schedule these sessions at any time after June 16.)
- Science 10 (only for schools that require an early session)
- Apprenticeship and Workplace Mathematics 10 Foundations of Mathematics
- Pre-Calculus 10
- BC First Nations Studies 12
- English 12
- English 10 First Peoples
- Communications 12
- Français langue première 10
- Français langue seconde-immersion 12
- Français langue première 12
- Science 10
- Civic Studies 11
- English 12 First Peoples
- English 10
- Social Studies 11
Source: B.C. Ministry of Education
With files from The Canadian Press